Students Petition to Recall ASUCI Senators After “Anti-Black” “Satire” Legislation
Two ASUCI Senators co-authored and presented controversial legislations at Nov. 16’s Senate meeting — one in support of bolstering due process for students accused of sexual assault, and another “satirical” resolution critiquing anti-police rhetoric and stating that “maintaining racism and prejudice will continue to be the standard by which we create and pass legislation.” Petitions to recall both senators have since circulated.
Social Ecology Senator Melissa Safady and Humanities Senator Brian Felix penned the resolutions, titled “Due process and transparency in Title IX Proceedings” and “Outing white supremacists in the local PD.” Safady and Felix wrote the latter legislation, R53-39, as a “satire” implying that anti-police, anti-white privilege rhetoric promotes “racism and prejudice.” The legislation states that “many [UCI students] would have nothing to do if racism wasn’t an issue on campus, because then we’d have to gain new knowledge, think, learn, and actually get to know people by the content of our character and not the color of our skin, as MLK so eloquently stated.”
“Anyone whose ideas challenge my views is racist, homophobic, xenophobic, coulrophobic, nomophobic, sophophobic, coprophobic, omphalophobic bigots that no one cares about so they should shut up already,” the legislation reads. “Whereas, we want to encourage racism at the expense of the human beings who serve us at our local ‘pigs in a blanket, fry’em like bacon’ department….Let it further be resolved that all black police officers show up to work in White-Face so as not to confuse UCI students or lead them to question any of these narratives or think for themselves.”
About two dozen students attended the Senate meeting to oppose the legislation and several spoke against it during public comment, arguing that the resolution is harmful and dismissive of students of color.
Jasmine Adams and Kayla Boyden, co-chairs of UCI’s Black Student Union, prepared a statement condemning Safady’s “blatantly hostile, anti-black legislation that makes a mockery of the very real and present experiences of black people, both on this campus and in the world.”
“Hiding behind [her satirical] rhetorical strategy, [Safady]…argues that black activists who demand racial justice are the most powerful arbiters of racial violence, while white people and police are the true victims,” Adams read. “Safady, as a white member of ASUCI, has the power to release legislation that makes a mockery of black resistance, institutional, interpersonal, and structural white supremacy. Under these conditions, legislation in the form of what Safady calls ‘satire’ should be impossible. Student government legislation should be nothing but serious ”
Another student, senior criminology major Jose Santacruz, spoke as one of Senator Safady’s constituents in the School of Social Ecology. In addition to expressing anger at the content of the resolution, Santacruz noted that Safady and Felix did not consult their constituents before writing the legislation.
“I am absolutely disgusted at the fact that [these Senators] are being paid with student fees to actively write this fucking legislation when people are being threatened with doxxing, people are being threatened with deportation, people are being brutalized by police,” Santacruz said. “I’m really appalled that someone of this caliber…is being paid with my fees when, literally, you’re using your positionality to sit here and make satirical comments that nobody gives a fuck about.”
Safady admitted that she did not speak to her constituents before writing the resolution, and when asked if the majority her constituents would support such a legislation, she said, “I don’t know.”
Both the President of the Senate, Tin Hong, and ASUCI President, Lydia Natoolo, condemned the resolution and stated that it does not represent the views of ASUCI as an organization.
“I would like to offer my sincerest apologies to all members of the public who are affected by this legislation,” Hong said. “It is not a reflection of the efforts of all my Senators, and I do not believe that it is a representation of what we hope to achieve as an organization. We have failed you.”
On behalf of ASUCI’s entire Executive Cabinet, Natoolo stated, “The resolution does not embody the entire voice of ASUCI.”
“This satirical legislation is a mock of the entire process and the work that is done in the Senate,” Natoolo continued. “This action is inherently anti-black and reflects on how black bodies are seen as disposable, time and time again. This legislation is detrimental to black and non-black students of color…This resolution was detrimental to our Anteater family.”
Senator Safady attempted to withdraw the resolution, but other Senators objected, bringing it to a vote. Resolution R53-39 failed unanimously. The second Safady-Felix legislation of the evening, “Due process and transparency in Title IX Proceedings,” also failed with 17 “nay” votes. Only Safady voted in favor, while Felix abstained.
The legislation supported Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s recent proposal to bolster due process rights for students accused of sexual assault. In the legislation, Safady argues that Title IX procedures “have been widely criticized for lacking basic fairness and due process protections for the accused.”
Several Senators and members of the public criticized the resolution for prioritizing those accused of sexual assault over sexual assault survivors.
“Your legislation is dehumanizing sexual assault survivors, and it’s making what they’re saying seem like crying wolf, which is wrong,” said At-Large Senator Jeanine Erikat. “The burden of proof is already very high for them.”
After the meeting, several students began circulating a petition online to recall Senators Safady and Felix. To begin recall proceedings, 25 percent of those who voted in the office’s last election must sign the petition — at least 145 students in the School of Social Ecology and 50 students in the School of Humanities. If the petition gains the necessary signatures within five weeks, the Elections Commission will review it and call for a special election if requirements are met.